The 2012 presidential campaign took an extended timeout on Friday, as President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney pressed pause on the campaign back-and-forth to reflect on the Colorado shooting that left 12 people dead.
Obama, who had been scheduled to spend Friday campaigning in Florida, canceled one event to head back to Washington after giving remarks on the shooting at what would have been a campaign rally. He spent the rest of the day in meetings with Vice President Biden, FBI director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan and other top advisers.
Both candidates suspended their advertising campaigns in the state after a lone gunman opened fire during a midnight showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in a Denver suburb.
The campaigns closely monitored the day’s developments, with aides mostly mum about when the campaign boxing match would once again resume at its normal pitch. The shooting is also supposed to consume much of the Sunday talk shows, sources say.
For the time being, Obama — who has no public events scheduled for the weekend — is expected to resume campaign travel on Monday with a three-day West Coast trip including stops in California and Washington.
Romney has no public events scheduled through Monday, and his wife, Ann, canceled her planned appearance in Michigan on Friday afternoon. The Republican presidential hopeful is likely to hit the campaign trail for at least a couple of days next week before departing to London for the kickoff of the Olympic games.
At the same time, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who heads up the coalition “Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and other political figures pressed both presidential candidates to talk about gun laws, saying both Obama and Romney should do more than offer "soothing words,” in the wake of the tragedy.
“Soothing words are nice,” Bloomberg said on Friday. “But maybe it's time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they're going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, 'Isn't it tragic?'”
“I mean, there's so many murderers with guns every day,” Bloomberg added. “It's just got to stop. And instead of these two people, President Obama and Gov. Romney, talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place. OK, tell us how. And this is a problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them, concretely, not just in generalities. Specifically, what are they going to do about guns.”
Political strategists and other observers say it’s unlikely that Obama and Romney would discuss their positions.
“I would like to believe that this will be a wake-up call, but I don’t think this is going to happen,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist and a columnist for The Hill. “No politician has the courage to stand up to the NRA. They have waged such a campaign of fear and terror.
“You never know which match lights the fire,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “For the time being, it’s intense, and then intensity wanes.
“It's an issue that I think is worth fighting and bringing up but for Democrats running in a lot of these states it’s a minefield,” Simmons added. “They’ve learned to go after the other issues.”
Simmons predicted that the shooting in Colorado will be a touchy subject that both candidates handle delicately until possibly just before the political conventions later this summer. “I think you’ll see Colorado take on a different tone till well after the memorial services,” Simmons said.
“This being July, you could lay off on the negative message for a while. The conventions will provide a natural political moment to shift a little,” he added.
The rest of the national calendar will slowly ease back to normal in the coming days, albeit with fewer attacks, at least for the time being.
Finney praised both Obama and Romney for their handling of the day’s events. But she predicted that both campaigns “will try to get a better sense of what happened” in Colorado, before they hit the stump again.
“You’ll see both campaigns weigh that and temper their response accordingly,” Finney said.
Bonjean agreed, adding that there will be a small grace period before it’s “back to politics as usual.
“I don’t think it’s 72 hours and ads are back up,” he said. “It’s doubtful that would happen. It would be very inappropriate. It’ll probably go positive for a while. They wont be throwing serious campaign jabs until there’s some closure in Colorado.”
— Justin Sink contributed to this report.